DECAEN, Charles-Mathieu-Isidore

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DECAEN, Charles-Mathieu-Isidore

Fact file

Born Caen, 13 April, 1769, died of cholera, La Barre (near Montmorency, Seine-et-Oise), 9 September, 1832
Cannonier de 2e classe in the Corps de Cannoniers, Brest, 27 July, 1787
Sergeant-major in the 4e Bataillon du Calvados, 14 September, 1792
Served in the Armée du Nord and then the Armée du Rhin, 1793, notably as Kléber's sous-lieutenant provisoire adjoint, Mainz, 1 May 1793
Distinguished himself at the combat of Saint-Michel, 3 April, 1794
Adjudant général chef de brigade, 12 September, 1795
Taken prisoner at Frankenthal, 12 November, 1795 (released in an exchange, 1 April, 1796, to return to his service)
Took part in the crossing of the Rhine at Strasbourg, 23-24 June, 1796
Fought at Appenwihr, 27 June, 1796
Named provisional Général de brigade, 3 July, 1796
Fought at Rastadt (5 July) and Ettlingen (9 July)
Confirmed Général de brigade, 2 August, 1796
Served under Desaix at Neresheim (11 August) and Biberach (2 October)
Wounded in a fall from a horse at Emmendingen (19 October)
Fought with the Division Ambert in the defence of Kehl, November 1796
Stormed Sundheim, 22 November, for which he won a sabre d'honneur
Stripped of his rank after requisitioning money from the funds of the receiver in Neustadt, 22 February, 1798
Recalled 26 March, 1798
Head of a brigade in the Division Souham, March, 1799
Wounded in the leg at Stockach, 25 March, 1799
Summoned before a council of war, 28 April, 1799, but exculpated by the Directory, 18 July, 1799
Taken back into the army to join the 2e division of the Armée du Rhin, 9 November, 1799
Served under Lecourbe at the combat of 16 November
Chef of the 1re Brigade, division Souham, 25 April 1800
Appointed provisionally Général de division by the general en chef of the Armée du Rhin, 16 May, 1800
Joined the reserve in place of Richepance, 4 June, 1800
Served at Hochstädt, 18 June, 1800, entered Munich 28 June
Confirmed Général de division, 7 August, 1800
Chief of the 3e division du centre under Moreau, 12 November, 1800
Fought at Hohenlinden, 3 December, 1800, and at Salzburg, 14 December, 1800
Inspecteur général d'infanterie, 8e division militaire, 24 July, 1804
Capitaine général des établissements français in India, 18 June, 1802
After a brief period in Pondicherry (he set sail 6 March, 1803, arrived 11 July, 1803), he came back to Ile de France (Mauritius) off the East coast of Africa, 16 August, 1803
Wounded in the defence of the island, November 1810, capitulated to the British, 2 December, 1810
Returned to France and appointed commander in chief (in place of Macdonald) of the Armée de Catalonia under Suchet, 3 October, 1811
Victor at Altafulla, Saint-Feliu and Vich, 2 November, 1811
Comte de l'Empire, 25 February, 1813
Served at the liberation of Tarragona, 15 August, 1813
Recalled to France, 2 November, 1813

Honest, perhaps a little naive (during a heated discussion between Decaen and Bonaparte on the subject of Moreau Bonaparte remarked “Vous êtes bon, vous, et vous croyez que tout le monde vous ressemble”) and not one of the First Consul's favourites, Decaen was nevertheless perceived as useful in terms of the First Consul's oriental ambitions. During his time on Mauritius, Decaen eased the situation of slaves, organised national education, introduced an adapted version of the Code Civil which became known as the Code Decaen.

Further reading

Decaen, C.-M.-I., Mémoires et Journaux du Général Decaen (introduction, notes and maps by Ernest Picard), Paris : Plon, 1910-1911, 2 vols (T. 1, 1793-1799, T. 2, 1800-1803)
Prentout, H., L'Ile de France sous Decaen (1803-1810), Paris: Hachette, 1901

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